Health should become a distinctive priority area after the upcoming EU elections

Ahead of the European election in May, stakeholders from different policy areas have come together to set broader, multi-sectorial priorities for health and well-being. Their goal is to make the entire sector an EU priority in the next legislative term. The old-fashioned way to look at the health investments and policymaking no longer seems enough to the EU citizens, as more than 70% of them have asked for more EU actions in this sector, according to a Eurobarometer survey.

According to stakeholders the approach to health needs to be redefined, taken into account that 86% of deaths are caused by chronic diseases. The next challenges for the health sector will come from lifestyle choices, infrastructure, mobility, consumer protection, work-life balance and environmental pollution. There are still a lot of health inequalities depending where people live, on their gender, income and ethnicity. A significant gap exists also between life expectancy and ‘healthy’ life expectancy in the EU, which means that people live longer but are burdened by one or several chronic conditions.

Healthy, happy citizens are the biggest asset any country can have, however, increasing numbers of people suffer from mental disorders, depression, obesity, substance abuse, loneliness, and chronic diseases. At the same time, unhealthy diet is one of the main risk factors for all deaths and diseases in the EU. Agrifood sector and its interrelation with nutrition and health show the need for policy coherence from farm to fork, namely through an integrated food policy capable of addressing health issues.

Fighting the existing gaps and focusing on mental health and nutrition requires cross-sectoral actions with the well-being at the core of all policies.

Founded by former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, Re-imagine Europa describes itself as a European incubator for political ideas, recently becoming also one of the inspirators of a new multi-stakeholders platform that tries to implement cross-sectoral policies in health decision making.

Another intersectoral initiative is ‘All Policies for a Healthy Europe’ (AP4HE), which wants to ensure that citizens’ health and well-being are a core priority for Europe and a strategic objective for the European Commission, Parliament and Governments.